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Pinterest: The Ultimate Image Archive?

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Pinterest is the visual social network, especially popular with women who like to pin images of clothing, recipes, and DIY projects. But it’s also a terrific place to find (and store) images of just about anything in which you’re interested. In this article, My Pinterest author Michael Miller shows you how to use Pinterest as the ultimate image archive - and create your own specialty image collections.
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You may have heard about Pinterest, the visual social network that lets you “pin” pictures on virtual pinboards, and then share those pins with friends and followers. You may have even used Pinterest yourself to save images of DIY projects, landscaping designs, recipes, or fashions.

But Pinterest has special appeal to collectors, even if all you collect are pictures. You can use Pinterest to create an online image archive for whatever subject appeals to you – from classic cars to sports memorabilia.

How Pinterest Works

Pinterest is kind of like Facebook without all the unnecessary words. That is, you find images you like and then you both save them and share them. It’s a social network, thanks to all that sharing, but it’s also a collector’s dream; every image you pin is saved to one of your personal pinboards. You can revisit any of your pinned images at any time.

Using Pinterest is simplicity itself. Once you’ve joined up and created an account (it’s free, and you can even join up using your Facebook ID), you then create one or more pinboards to hold the images you find. To create a new board, just click the + button on the Pinterest toolbar and select Create a Board; give the new board a name and its ready to accept any images you decide to pin. You can create any number of boards, each typically organized around a single topic.

Figure 1 Creating a new Pinterest board.

So, for example, if you’re into stamp collecting, you might create a Stamps board. If you’re into vintage toys, create a Vintage Toys board. If you’re into aquariums, create a Fish board. What kind of and how many boards you create are totally up to you.

Figure 2 One collector’s pinboards on Pinterest.

There are many ways to find images to pin to your boards. You can search Pinterest for topics of interest, and then “repin” the pins you find. You can follow other Pinterest users, and then repin items of theirs you like. You can also pin images you find on the web – which enables you to collect pictures from hundreds of different websites in a single place.

Figure 3 Repinning an existing pin.

There are two ways to pin an image from a web page. If you know the page’s URL, click the + button on the Pinterest toolbar, select Add From a Website, and then enter that URL; you can then select any images found on that page. You can also install a Pin On Pinterest button in your web browser; click this button while you’re viewing a given web page to pin an image on that page.

Each image you pin or repin can be accompanied by a short text description. This is ideal for collectors, as you can describe what you’re pinning in whatever detail you like. The pin’s description also enables other collectors to find your pin when searching; you can use hashtags in your descriptions, if you like.

Figure 4 A typical Pinterest pin, complete with text description.

What you end up with, over time, is a collection pinboards that each contain dozens or hundreds of pinned images you’ve selected. In this fashion, a Pinterest pinboard becomes a virtual image archive for whatever it is you’re interested in.

Why Pinterest Appeals to Collectors

If you’re a collector, it’s not hard to see the appeal of Pinterest. Sure, you’re not collecting physical objects, but you can find and store in perpetuity images of the things you like. It doesn’t cost anything to archive these images on Pinterest, so you can feed your hobby at zero cost – save for the time involved, of course. And even that time doesn’t need to be great, as Pinterest makes it easy to find images on its own site. (Not that you won’t end up spending a lot of time on Pinterest, of course; I’ve known some moderately obsessed users who spend several hours a day pinning and repinning things they like.)

That’s not surprising, really, when you realize that Ben Silbermann, Pinterest’s founder, as a kid was an inveterate bug collector. “I really liked insects,” he once told an interviewer. As a traditional collector, he pinned them to cardboard, tagged them, made little insect shadow boxes and tableaus. It took a lot of time and effort, but it was something he really liked.

Well, that same desire to collect and catalog specific objects is what drove the creation of Pinterest. Back in 2009, Silbermann and co-founder Evan Sharp bonded over their mutual love of both infographics and collecting. Silbermann suggested that digital collecting could be the wave of the future, and thus Pinterest was born.

This makes Pinterest the first online site targeted specifically at collectors. Yes, eBay is used by a lot of collectors buying and selling items online, but that’s not the sole or primary purpose of that site. Pinterest is all about collecting the things you love, and then sharing them with other people who share your interests.

Of course, you’re not really collecting those things themselves, but rather pictures of those things – but that’s also part of Pinterest’s appeal. You don’t have to bother with the expense of purchasing and storing all those physical objects; instead, you create a virtual collection that is not restrained by cost or location. You can collect as many images as you want without worrying about finding the money or the space to store them.

And, since your Pinterest images exist in the cloud, not on a single PC or in a given physical location, you can access your image archive anytime and anywhere you want. No matter what kinds of images you collect, you can view them when you’re at home, at the office, on vacation, at the local coffeehouse, you name it.

In addition, all your friends – as well as fellow collectors – can view your collection on their own devices, wherever they may happen to be. This makes collecting a much more social activity than it’s been in the past. You don’t have to wait for the annual such-and-such convention to meet with your follow lovers of such-and-such; by following each other Pinterest, you can interact with other collectors on a daily basis.

This really opens up the world of collecting. With Pinterest, you share your collection online with the world (or with as much of the world as is interested); it’s not locked away solely for your own personal enjoyment. You can share your collection with anyone, without having it leave your (virtual) hands. Your Pinterest collection remains your own personal possession and a public gallery for fellow enthusiasts.

Creating a Pinterest Image Archive

How do you put together a Pinterest image archive for a topic you hold near and dear? It’s as easy as creating one or more Pinterest boards for that topic, and then finding and pinning images to those boards.

Let’s say that you’re interested in pictures of movie stars. Well, there are a lot of celebrity photos online, so it’s just a matter of searching them out and pinning them to your Movie Star pinboard. You can repin images pinned by other Pinterest users, or pin pictures you find yourself online. Once you get going, you could have a pinboard with hundreds or even thousands of your favorite photos, all in one place.

Figure 5 Searching for pins of Rita Hayworth.

Maybe you like to collect model trains. Well, there are a lot of train collectors on Pinterest, so a simple search will bring up a lot of pins – and a lot of pinners. Repin those train images you like to your Model Trains board, and follow those collectors who seem to be best on their game. You can also pin pictures you take of your own physical collection, as well as model train photos you find on the web. It won’t take long to build up an impressive image archive in your Pinterest account.

Figure 6 Model train boards on Pinterest.

Or maybe, like me, you’re a fan of vintage advertisements. In the old days you’d have to find and purchase old ads on eBay or at flea markets and garage sales – a hit and miss proposition, at best. With Pinterest, you find scans of those same advertisements online and pin them to your own Vintage Ads pinboard. Over time you’ll connect with and follow other vintage ad collectors on Pinterest, so you’ll find even more items through them to pin. You can actually build up a very comprehensive collection in this fashion, without spending a dime on your hobby.

Figure 7 An image archive of vintage advertisements.

Once you connect to a given collector’s community on Pinterest, it really starts popping. In the case of vintage ads, I follow a dozen or more other collectors on Pinterest, so the new items they pin show up on my Pinterest home page. When someone pins something I like, I quickly repin it. Then other collectors who follow me repin that item to their own boards, where it’s seen by their followers – and on and on. You might find that a popular pin gets repinned dozens or even hundreds of times, thus expanding out to that entire universe of collectors or hobbyists. In examining new pins in your feed, you may also find other collectors to follow, thus expanding your personal universe of friends, as well.

It doesn’t matter what you collect – coins, baseball cards, movie posters, beer bottles, you name it – you can find and pin those items to your own Pinterest board. Other collectors will find your pins when they’re searching, and you’ll soon be connected to a growing community of similar collectors online.

And here’s the best thing. You’ll always have access to your image collection. You can browse your pinned images at any time, from any computer or mobile device. (Pinterest has free iOS and Android aps for tablets and smartphones.) It’s fun to find new images to collect, but it’s even more satisfying to browse through the large and growing image archives you’ve collected. That’s where Pinterest excels – it’s the ultimate image archive for collectors of all types and ages.

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